Sometimes you go on a vacation that’s completely unrelated to beer and stumble upon some darned good beer. I’ve been visiting Yellowstone since I was a little kid. I grew up an hour outside the East Entrance of the park in northwest Wyoming. Since I’ve moved away, any chance to visit Yellowstone is a special occasion, but I’ve always returned home to Wyoming. This was first trip to Yellowstone since the passing of my grand parents, leaving me without a place to stay. So this time, I decided to change-up the routine and stay in Montana and use the West Entrance.
I found a good deal at a ski lodge in Big Sky, Montana. It’s off-season so they were offering some great deals. I wasn’t anticipating that there would be a brewery in Big Sky! But when I entered town and saw the Lone Peak Brewery sign, I was happy to see it. After a full day in Yellowstone National Park, a trip to a brewery would be a great end of the day.
Big Sky, Montana is a small town in the southern part of Montana near the Wyoming and Idaho border. It’s mostly a ski resort town, but has a lot more to offer during the summer. This part of the world is an amazing destination for fishing, particularly fly fishing. There are ranches where you can ride horses and loads of places to camp. If you like outdoor activities, this part of country has something to offer just about anyone, besides the fact that it’s a short and beautiful drive away from Yellowstone (about 60 minutes).
Lone Peak Brewery was founded in 2007 by Steve and Vicky Nordahl. Steve got his first taste of brewing while attending high school in Belgium. Once he returned to the US, he attended and graduated from the fermentation program at UC Davis. Although you may not have heard his name before, you’ve probably heard of his work. He was one of the founders of Flying Dog Brewing. After he got tired of being part of a “bigger” brewery, he decided to leave and start a new venture. Initially they were only able to open for limited hours and served some basic appetizers. Once they got their full liquor license, they were able to open for full hours and a now provide a full menu, including: breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Their beer menu continues to develop after 7 years of being open. They have a good mix of traditional American-style craft beers ranging from a Pilsner, a Blond, Pale, IPA, Seasonals, and more. They have these great sampler trays they call a “brew-ski.” They’re a fun way to recycle some old skis. They offer them in a brewski of 5 or 9, if you’re feeling up to the challenge!
I ordered a 5 brewski and picked a mix of lighter and dark beers as well as a their winter seasonal. Despite being June, they still had it on. But to be fair, it was quite “crisp” in the air and it was snowing going in and out of the resort on 2 occasions. The mountain peak even had a fresh dusting the morning I left. Between the brewski, another pint and one at the resort (they had a handle at the hotel bar), I had a total of 7 Lone Peak beers.
I feel confident in saying: they make some very nice beer! The Lone Peak IPA was the standout. It had a nice caramel maltiness with a good dose of hops to balance it out. It wasn’t extremely bitter, but had a solid IPA kick to it. The aroma was balanced and complex. I also liked the Nordic blonde. It was crisp and flavorful. The other big standout was the Hippy Highway Oatmeal Stout. It had a lot of flavor packed into only 5.5% ABV. The other beers I tried were all good, some just weren’t to my taste specifically. They were cleanly brewed and flavorful. The food was also pretty good on the scale of brewpub food. I had an exceptionally tasty Ruben with great rye bread and wonderful, thick pastrami.
If you find yourself in the area of Big Sky, Montana, Lone Peak Brewery is definitely worth a visit. They do can and bottle some beers, but judging by the size of their brewing system they probably don’t have a huge distribution footprint. They were definitely a pleasant surprise and added a fun stop on my vacation.
Here are a couple of photographs from nearby Yellowstone National Park: